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(105 ILCS 5/2-3.186)
Freedom Schools; grant program.
(a) The General Assembly recognizes and values the contributions that Freedom Schools make to enhance the lives of Black students. The General Assembly makes all of the following findings:
(1) The fundamental goal of the Freedom Schools of
the 1960s was to provide quality education for all students, to motivate active civic engagement, and to empower disenfranchised communities. The renowned and progressive curriculum of Freedom Schools allowed students of all ages to experience a new and liberating form of education that directly related to the imperatives of their lives, their communities, and the Freedom Movement.
(2) Freedom Schools continue to demonstrate the
proven benefits of critical civic engagement and intergenerational effects by providing historically disadvantaged students, including African American students and other students of color, with quality instruction that fosters student confidence, critical thinking, and social and emotional development.
(3) Freedom Schools offer culturally relevant
learning opportunities with the academic and social supports that Black children need by utilizing quality teaching, challenging and engaging curricula, wrap-around supports, a positive school climate, and strong ties to family and community. Freedom Schools have a clear focus on results.
(4) Public schools serve a foundational role in the
education of over 2,000,000 students in this State.
(b) The State Board of Education shall establish a Freedom School network to supplement the learning taking place in public schools by awarding one or more grants as set forth in subsection (e) to create Freedom Schools with a mission to improve the odds for children in poverty by using a research-based and multicultural curriculum for disenfranchised communities most affected by the opportunity gap and learning loss caused by the pandemic, and by expanding the teaching of African American history, developing leadership skills, and providing an understanding of the tenets of the civil rights movement. The teachers in Freedom Schools must be from the local community, with an emphasis on historically disadvantaged youth, including African American students and other students of color, so that (i) these individuals have access to jobs and teaching experiences that serve as a long-term pipeline to educational careers and the hiring of minority educators in public schools, (ii) these individuals are elevated as content experts and community leaders, and (iii) Freedom School students have access to both mentorship and equitable educational resources.
(c) A Freedom School shall intentionally and imaginatively implement strategies that focus on all of the following:
(1) Racial justice and equity.
(2) Transparency and building trusting
(3) Self-determination and governance.
(4) Building on community strengths and community
(5) Utilizing current data, best practices, and
(6) Shared leadership and collaboration.
(7) A reflective learning culture.
(8) A whole-child approach to education.
(d) The State Board of Education, in the establishment of Freedom Schools, shall strive for authentic parent and community engagement during the development of Freedom Schools and their curriculum. Authentic parent and community engagement includes all of the following:
(1) A shared responsibility that values equal
partnerships between families and professionals.
(2) Ensuring that students and families who are
directly impacted by Freedom School policies and practices are the decision-makers in the creation, design, implementation, and assessment of those policies and practices.
(3) Genuine respect for the culture and diversity
(4) Relationships that center around the goal of
supporting family well-being and children's development and learning.
(e) Subject to appropriation, the State Board of Education shall establish and implement a grant program to provide grants to public schools, public community colleges, and not-for-profit, community-based organizations to facilitate improved educational outcomes for historically disadvantaged students, including African American students and other students of color in grades pre-kindergarten through 12 in alignment with the integrity and practices of the Freedom School model established during the civil rights movement. Grant recipients under the program may include, but are not limited to, entities that work with the Children's Defense Fund or offer established programs with proven results and outcomes. The State Board of Education shall award grants to eligible entities that demonstrate a likelihood of reasonable success in achieving the goals identified in the grant application, including, but not limited to, all of the following:
(1) Engaging, culturally relevant, and challenging
(2) High-quality teaching.
(3) Wrap-around supports and opportunities.
(4) Positive discipline practices, such as
(5) Inclusive leadership.
(f) The Freedom Schools Fund is created as a special fund in the State treasury. The Fund shall consist of appropriations from the General Revenue Fund, grant funds from the
federal government, and donations from educational and private foundations. All money in the Fund shall be used, subject to appropriation, by the State Board of Education for the purposes of this Section and to support related activities.
(g) The State Board of Education may adopt any rules necessary to implement this Section.
(Source: P.A. 102-209, eff. 11-30-21 (See Section 5 of P.A. 102-671 for effective date of P.A. 102-209); 103-8, eff. 6-7-23.)